Why Nationwide internet banking sucks

Just over a year ago, I took what I thought was my first step towards more ethical banking: I opened a Nationwide current account. Before I opened the account, I made sure to ask about the internet banking. Did it work? Was it straightforward? Easy online banking was one of the few things I liked about my old HSBC account, and I wanted to be sure Nationwide would offer the same thing. I was assured that Nationwide’s internet banking was very easy to use and naively, I believed it.

I flicked through the leaflet called “Getting Started: Internet Banking – User guide” and found it all quite straightforward. Time to get started!

The site was painfully slow to load, but I tried not to let that mar my optimistic mood. Eventually, I was in.

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The first thing the site wanted was my customer number. I thought this would be the same thing as my account number. It wasn’t.

Then the site wanted my “memorable data”. I assumed this was the “memorable word” I’d agreed with the branch staff as a password when I opened the account. It wasn’t.

It also wanted selected digits from something called a Passnumber, which had me foxed for a while.

The first hurdle, I think, is to work out that you need to register. The Getting Started leaflet assumes you’ve already registered, referring to “your sign on details letter” and “the date, place or name you chose when you registered”, but doesn’t make it clear that registering for Nationwide internet banking is not the same thing as opening a Nationwide account. (It also has zero information on how to register, which I suppose is to be expected if it’s starting from the assumption that you’ve already done so.)

Once you work out that you have to register, you’ll realise that your “customer number” is a separate number solely used for internet banking purposes. Nationwide sends it to you by post when you first register for internet banking, though you won’t necessarily make the connection between the “security details” it says it’s sending and the “customer number” the site is demanding. In other words, Nationwide’s internet banking sign-up process involves waiting for a snail-mail letter, without necessarily even realising that you’re waiting for it.

You’ll also then work out that the “memorable data” is actually three pieces of data you’re required to supply: a place, a name and a date. (The Passnumber is supplied by Nationwide and arrives with the rest of the “security details”.)

Once the snail-mail letter arrives, you can finally get your banking set up online. But I still struggled. I kept re-entering my details and being told they were wrong. I ended up locked out of my account and having to re-register. I thought the problem might be that several days had elapsed between thinking of my “memorable data” and being able to use it online; maybe I’d managed to forget it in that time. Cue another wait for a letter in the post. Rinse and repeat.

When I registered for the third time, I threw all data security advice to the winds and wrote down my memorable data, storing it in a text file on my computer with a hacker-baffling filename like “Nationwide Internet Banking Details” or similar. But when the letter came through the post again and I re-registered again, I still got it wrong and still ended up locked out. By this point, I’d had the current account for over a month and still hadn’t managed to use the internet banking. I missed paying a credit card bill and was charged a £12 late payment fee (which Nationwide waived after I threatened to close my account).

I did eventually manage to log in successfully, only to find myself locked out when I tried to repeat the feat the following day. I realised that the problem might be with the “memorable data” bit. The site doesn’t tell you which of the three pieces of data to enter, but I phoned up to ask and was told that any one of the three should work. Then I realised that I was only having problems when I chose to enter the date as my memorable data, rather than the name or the place. I subsequently found out (though I can’t remember how) that this was because the date can only be entered in a specific format: DDMMYYYY. (Naturally, there is no clue to this in the internet banking interface or in the cheery little leaflet.)

But my joy at this discovery was short-lived. The next time I tried to log in, I was faced with a demand to sign on using my card reader.

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What card reader? There had been no mention of this when I opened the account and no mention in the leaflet. I rang Nationwide to ask what was going on. They said I should have already received one, but promised to send out another. In the meantime, I couldn’t use internet banking until this piece of plastic arrived by snail mail.

The card reader arrived, with a letter warning me that I could be charged for another replacement. (Of course, as far as I was concerned, it wasn’t a replacement because it was the first one I’d seen.) I followed the instructions for setting it up. It didn’t work. I rang Nationwide to complain. They assured me that the card reader was an optional measure for extra security and I could still log on to internet banking using my memorable details. I checked again and yes, “Sign on with memorable data” was given as an alternative option. I was grateful not to have to use the broken card reader.

I successfully signed in without the reader. The first thing I tried to do was to transfer money out of my current account into the HSBC joint account I share with my husband, so we could pay our (Nationwide) mortgage. But doing the transfer online was impossible without the card reader. I rang Nationwide and questioned their use of the word “optional”.

In the meantime, a second card reader arrived and I tried setting that up too. It didn’t work either. I tried googling for “Nationwide card reader” to see if there was some trick I was missing, only to witness a tide of rage from other confused and angry users.

I opened my Nationwide current account in September 2010. By March 2011 I had managed to successfully sign in to internet banking perhaps two or three times, but I still hadn’t managed to actually do anything useful like transferring money from the account. I’d been given a Nationwide credit card when I opened the account, but I stopped using it because I got sick of paying the bills by cheque.

I think I’ve made my point: Nationwide’s internet banking set-up is badly broken. Poor website usability, security theatre, unhelpful instructions and slow internal systems combine to prevent the user from, well, using it. But this lengthy rant is actually part one of a two-part story: my problems with internet banking meant that I took a long time to notice a bigger problem. See my next post.

The card reader is actually

The card reader is actually largely optional for most cases, but they don't go out of their way to make that clear...

On your Sign On screenshot, if you look closely, you'll see there are two tabs at the top. One, the default, is "Use your card reader". The other next to it is "Use your memorable data". If you clicked that, you'd be prompted for the old style login.

(They have since changed the login form since you took the screenshot, and the process of logging in with memorable details is now slightly different. Now there's a "Or, use your memorable data and passnumber to log in" link you can click)

Nick, I think you've

Nick,

I think you've misunderstood the post (not surprising given all the layers of confusing fail described). As I relate in the blogpost, I did spot the "Use your memorable data" tab and (after a lot of hassle) successfully logged in with it. But once I tried to actually do something after logging in - that is, transferring money out of my account - I was asked to use the card reader. Which, of course, is broken. That's why I rang them and questioned their use of the word "optional".

Of course, as I make clear in my next post, the impossible demand for me to use my broken card reader was a red herring anyway, because the nature of the account simply won't allow you to transfer money out of the account without an enormous amount of fuss. It simply can't be done online, or even over the phone, card reader or no card reader.

I stumbled across this blog

I stumbled across this blog post accidentally and would just like to point out that this is, in my opinion, a very unfair description of Nationwide's Internet Banking service. Setting up access is really easy and logging on is not as difficult as you make it sound. Why it took you 6 months I don't know!

Memorable data is something YOU are asked for when setting it up. YOU are asked to provide a name, place and date that is meaningful to you, one of which is required to login. The customer number and passcode are both sent in separate letters clearly stating that that is what they are. After requesting Internet Banking access and then having these pieces of information requested of you should not be a shock!

As for the problems you had with the card reader, I must say that you appear to manage to use a computer which is a much more complex piece of technology, so I don't know why you had a problem. It doesn't require any 'setting up'. When you are required to use it, the website provides you with exact instructions on the buttons you have to press.

There is nothing broken about the card reader. If you don't understand the concept of two-factor authentication I suggest you google it and learn about what it is you are blogging about!

It would appear that your problems stem mainly from an inability to read letters and follow instructions. If you would like assistance with using Internet Banking please let me know, I'd be happy to put you right.

I think the problems with

I think the problems with internet banking are different for different people. I've had a nationwide account for some time now and it does actually suck for me. I had to request a new card twice before they sent me one, the banking system went down and it locked my account taking 2 weeks to get a new pass code.  The card reader doesn't neccessarily work for me. I had the pin for one of my savings cards in front of me and it denied it and locked my card. Sometimes for some unkown reason the code is a number short...this might be the screen. Every time I try to use the password verified payment it says the password is wrong when it is definately not, then when it asks me to change the password and I enter the password I've been trying to use it says is can't be the same as the last one.It's frustrating to be constantly running up against bugs in Nationwide's system though it's nice to see that other people don't have problems and it makes me hopeful that one day I won't, but I think it's unfair to say things like "It would appear that your problems stem mainly from an inability to read letters and follow instructions." Some people do have real problems with Nationwide banking, for some people it does suck. Maybe mine sucks in a different way, maybe it's not specific to internet banking and Nationwide is either just a crappy bank or the wrong bank for me but I think you are lucky to not have had problems with a system that is still working out the kinks.

Anonymous, you are right, and

Anonymous, you are right, and thanks for backing me up. Nationwide's "internet banking" (I'll call it that although I've made clear elsewhere it's not really internet banking) is fiddly and confusing even when it works as intended. Even if those stupid card readers work perfectly, the whole system is poorly designed. I would be astonished if I found out it had ever been fully user-tested.

Adam, I thought your comments

Adam, I thought your comments were so helpful that I've written a whole blog post all about you.

Your experiences with setting

Your experiences with setting up Nationwide internet banking are pretty much the same as my wife and I had, but there's more! I needed to transfer the whole of our lump-sum savings from a Mysave account to our Flex account for onward transfer to our main bank account to pay for an investment. Nationwide made me transfer the money £10k at a time, and every time I had to log in using the card reader (for these transfers they wouldn't accept anything except the card reader), so a transaction that should have taken a few minutes took ages - and then I couldn't get the money out of the Flex account immediately.

My latest experience is that since 3 October I have been trying to transfer funds from our Nationwide Regular Saving Account and I can see the money - it's there OK - but every time I try to transfer it I get "We're sorry. We seem to be experiencing some technical problems". Nothing else, no help offered, nothing. Basically just 'Go away'.

This time it's not so urgent, but when I have eventually got our money safely out of Nationwide's reach I am going to close ALL our Nationwide accounts including the ISAs and the Flex account itself, and turn my back on them completely. It's such a shame, I believe that the mutual building societies were a wonderful system, but I can't stand the hassle of using Nationwide.

Thanks for sharing your

Thanks for sharing your experience, Squigglepop. It's a nice balance to all the drive-by comments I get from people telling me I must be stupid to have any problems with Nationwide's internet banking. I'm very sorry to hear you've been put through all this crap and I hope the process of sorting out new money arrangements is easy and quick!

Haha..yes...couldn't agree

Haha..yes...couldn't agree more. Nationwide Internet banking is very unfriendly and obtuse. If all Internet banking was like this you could forgive them but its not. 

I sure do miss the Money manager that Egg used to provide, as that made all these banking sites a breeze to use. I'm told there should be a replacement somewhere but haven't found it yet.

I travel a lot and find the Nationwaide such a pain having to remember a customer number that is not on any of my cards or cheque books...so what do I do..I write it down someplace. Seems to negate the whole point of it to me.

I'm still with them because I like the whole mutual thing, but they are a right pain the the &*^&

Thanks

Hi Kate,   You'll be pleased

Hi Kate,

 

You'll be pleased to know, probably in the interests of security or usability, but achieving neither.  As it stands now, when you register for a nationwide account you now have to enter a total of 8 pieces of memorable information (3 'memorable data' and 5 'security questions) about yourself....  I genuinely don't know the answers to enough of the questions to create my account ... I might have to hire a private investigator.

 

Awesome usability nationwide

You mean it's got WORSE in

You mean it's got WORSE in the 18 months or so since I wrote this blog post? Goodness me. Thanks for sharing.

I thought it was just me

I thought it was just me having this problem, thinking I could have forgotten 3 pieces of "memorable data" but nope, there are others! This will be my 3rd time re registering and I think I have also incurred a late payment fee, but I'm not entirely sure....because I can't log in to find out. I'm guessing purely because no money has been taken out of my current account yet. Ridiculous.

You have my sympathy!

You have my sympathy!

It's now 2014 and I am having

It's now 2014 and I am having the exact same problems as the orginal poster had. I am almost at the point of chucking my laptop out the window as it is so frustrating. Twice I have been locked out of my account and I haven't got in yet at all. I am also owrried that I am going to incur a late payment fee. I have used many internet banking sites and this is by far the worst so far.

Yeah, I was struggling also,

Yeah, I was struggling also, but:

if you use the "not card reader" "memorable data" input option on the right hand side, this is fine; if you remember the details you gave them of the pieces of memorable data (a name, a date, and a word I think), along with the 6-digit passnumber you gave them, you should be fine, so no need for card reader.

If only it was that simple,

If only it was that simple, Anonymous. As simple as leaving a drive-by comment on a blog post you haven't read.

It is still awful today. It

It is still awful today. It has been a month since I completed the online application, and I now have all the bits of paper that I need (some have been inexplicably sent multiple times), but I still cannot login.

The login page gives me "The customer number you entered doesn't match our records. Please try again.". Your blog rather suggested that I needed to register for online banking - so I dutifully did so... the first time I received an error message, but the second time it seemed to work, and I got an email saying I will soon receive a customer number, pass number and card reader.  But I already have these things! They just don't get recognised by the login page.

It is not worth the hassle just to get 5% interest for one year.

If you think the banking side

If you think the banking side is difficult you should try resetting your mortgage rate! All the problems described above along with obvious bugs included. There is strange, circular route which leads you to log into your account twice. Still not managed the process and with no technical support available and branches reluctant to arrange meetings, the only way forward is to have an hour-long phone session, making the online offering totally pointless.